home
RSS
March 28th, 2011
03:16 PM ET

Tiny church finds original King James Bible

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Hilmarton, England (CNN) - A little English village church has just made a remarkable discovery.

The ornate old Bible that had been sitting in plain view on a table near the last row of pews for longer than anyone could remember is an original King James Bible - one of perhaps 200 surviving 400-year-old original editions of arguably the most important book ever printed in English.

In fact, the Bible at St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England, was sitting right under a hand-lettered sign saying it was an original.

The sign said it had been found in "the parish chest" in 1857, that the cover had been added, and that it was the second of the two impressions published in 1611 - the year of first publication.

But no one knew whether to believe it, parish council member Geoff Procter said. As the anniversary of publication in 1611 approached, they decided it was worth investigating.

"We had no way of knowing whether it really was a 1611 Bible so we had to get it verified somehow," he said.

He and two other church members took it to a specialist, the Rev. David Smith at the Museum of the Book in London.

Smith knew immediately what he was looking at, Procter said.

"We put it on his table and he opened it and immediately he said, 'Yes, this is a 1611 Bible,'" Procter remembered.

Geoff Procter of St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England, reads from the church’s King James Bible.

Smith identified it thanks to a printing error - a place in the Gospel of Matthew that should say Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane and spoke to his disciples instead says that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, entered the garden.

That the St. Laurence Bible had that error, but not another one in the Book of Ruth, enabled Smith to pinpoint exactly when the book had been printed, Procter explained.

"We realized that this is quite an important find," he said, and last month the church quietly announced the discovery in the diocese newsletter.

They hesitated before going public, Procter said.

"It was one of those discoveries that we wondered if we should tell everybody or tell nobody," he said. "And we thought that as it was the 400th anniversary, we should talk about it."

St. Laurence Church is far from the only one talking about the King James Bible this year - the Globe Theatre in London is planning a reading of the whole thing in the days before Easter, and a literary festival has already done one. Cambridge University has an exhibition, and the King James Bible Trust lists dozens of special events planned this year to mark the anniversary.

The reason is simple, said Moira Goff of the British Library.

The King James Bible is "so embedded in us that we can't overstate the significance of it," she said.

It's the source of dozens of phrases and concepts that have become part of the English language - "an eye for an eye," "born again," "eat, drink and be merry," "God forbid."

The church recently discovered that its old Bible was a rare 400-year-old original King James Bible.

Experts point out that the King James is based on at least two earlier major English translations, so its creators were editors as much as originators of these phrases, but it is the King James Bible that the great English writers knew, Goff said.

"It's passed entirely into the English language, into the thinking of English speakers around the world," she said.

Its influence has been greater than that of Shakespeare, she argued.

"I think it's permeated the language in ways that we can't count as we can count Shakespeare, influencing people's religious thinking, influencing people's social thinking in a way that Shakespeare probably does now - but that's a more recent development," she said.

"It's the Bible that was read to people in church every week," she explained. "The great literary figures from the early 17th century onwards, this was their daily reading. It passed into their works," she said, citing John Milton and John Bunyan among others.

But the King James Bible shouldn't be reduced to merely its influence on writers, she said.

"I think we have to be very careful in looking at the Bible only as a work of literature. It is also Holy Scripture and I think that makes it a different sort of book than the great works of literature," she said. "It will be read by people who will possibly never read Shakespeare or Milton."

The St. Laurence discovery is very unusual, she said. Perhaps 200 copies of the 1611 printings of King James Bibles are known to exist, she estimated. No one knows how many were printed, she added, but she guessed that the number was probably around 1,000.

Most of the surviving copies are in institutions, such as major libraries at universities, colleges and cathedrals in the United Kingdom and United States, she said.

"Some of them may be in private collections," she added, saying there is no way to know how many such copies there might be.

The sign hanging above the Bible, announcing its origins.

The St. Laurence discovery is technically a fragment, not a Bible, since it is missing a few pages (including most of the first pages of Genesis, up to chapter 4, verse 17) and has been trimmed at the top to fit the wooden cover added in Victorian times.

But it fits a pattern, she said. As King James Bibles got old and needed to be replaced, many were tucked away as church treasures, as seems to have happened with the St. Laurence Bible.

The people of St. Laurence Church are now trying to raise money to build a special case so they can keep their Bible in use and on regular display.

That would make the church more or less unique so far as Goff knows, although she speculated that there just might be a few village churches still using their 400-year-old Bibles.

"It's possible there are one or two churches that have gone on doing it and they just haven't thought to say," she said.

"People are now beginning to realize the value of this particular edition. This is the 400th anniversary and there is a lot more emphasis on it," she said.

"They value it. They want to keep it and they want to use it."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bible • Books • Christianity • Easter • Houses of worship • United Kingdom

soundoff (1,211 Responses)
  1. Eric G.

    @airwx: What thought would you like to provoke? Are you saying that we should be allowed to insert whatever unsubstantiated claims we wish where scientific understanding ends? Is that your profound little thought experiment? Just accept that it was all magic because you do not understand the evidence?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  2. Belarius Marek

    I'm not a Christian and don't really care at all about those who believe or argue against the belief.. All I care is that there is an amazing example of 17th century literary art that has been preserved and, hopefully, will be around a lot longer than those arguing the existence of a god.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  3. Me

    ROFLMAO. You fools. Original. Just go to the library and search for it under the fiction section, where it should be.
    <( <) (>)>

    March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  4. layo24

    Why is it that people fail to really read history and know that in every cause there are impostors and then people who get the heart of the matter. People will bash all religion based on only the negative and forget to realize that movements like the abolition of slavery, civil rights, the end of apartheid were all faith based and religious based movements. There is freedom to choose to believe or not to believe in God, its your call but there are compelling reasons based on love, compassion and a life change that draw people to faith. If you don't believe it, that's fine but in belittling faith, you don't necessarily show a higher level of tolerance or compassion yourself.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Jeanine

      layo24, the issue is not who has the most compassion, but who is telling the damn truth! Atheists have truth on their side and the religious don't, as you would see if you took a few moments to judge the relative facts in the case.

      You obviously don't care if someone lies to you, but I do! And to turn all those lies into a massive form of group-madness is criminal. It is a crime against humanity! Innocent children are being lied to all over the world. They have no rights, they have no defense, they have only the trust in you that you obviously don't deserve. You betray their trust and their lives will be warped until they die.
      That is a crime against humanity and I will fight it with my last breath, my last erg of energy, and everything else I can bring to the fight.
      I am fighting for you and for everyone else. If you cannot see that I have truth on my side, then at least admit that I am doing this from the highest principles of preserving and helping humanity as a whole.
      A little rudeness is unavoidable. I am not perfect. But don't imply I am without compassion or moral imperatives of my own.
      That would be wrong. And I don't need a book of nonsense to tell me what's wrong and what's right.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Lycidas

      For Jean-
      “Atheists don’t claim that God doesn’t exist. They are simply without a belief in God. Therefore the burden of proof for God is on the Theist, not the Atheist.”

      This is a technicality that Atheists use to try to put the burden on the other side. They claim that since “A-theism” means “without a belief in God”, they are not claiming anything and therefore do not have to prove anything. Thus, they claim, the burden of proof is on the Theist, who claims that God exists.

      However, this makes little difference either way because their core philosophy toward God is still the same. Deep down, they believe that there is no God, and they know it. The reason why they emphasize this is to try to put themselves in an unattackable position. It’s a semantic ploy. To try to be consistent with it, they will say “There is no evidence for God” rather than “God doesn't exist”, but sometimes they slip up.

      They can’t really prove that God doesn’t exist because you can’t prove a negative. Regardless, the Atheist obviously believes deep down that there isn't a God or deity anyway, which is prevalent in their attempts to debunk and refute every single argument for the existence of God. Therefore this trivial debate about the implications of the word “Atheism” seems pointless in substance.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  5. Eviscerated

    I sometimes wonder, if they made a mistake such as saying Judas went in the the garden of Gethsemane, I wonder what other mistakes were made in it's translation and printing. Maybe instead of celibate, it was suppose to be celebrate.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  6. Scranton

    A truly remarkable find. What a great historical treasure.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  7. lonemountain

    Satan and his fallen angels are attacking in force over this article. Evidently they're threatened.......right Joe?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  8. Lucy

    I'm a Born again Christian, and I read the KJ Bible everyday. I think this new find is fascinating and ... just awesome. That bible has permeated so much of our culture, it's hard to know when it begins and ends around us.

    But what DON'T get, is why non-Christians and Christians alike have such thoughtless and hurtful comments about this subject. Look at you guys. My brothers and sisters are acting self righteous, and everyone, EVERYONE, regardless of where they're coming from, are making inane and pointless remarks that are hurtful and purposeless.

    I am a Christian, and I believe Christ is my Savior and redeemer, and that the word written in this book is the true and transcending message from God.

    But I don't have to shove it down people's throats, and I certainly believe that those who disagree can be more polite and respectful.

    Christ never facilitated petty arguments like I've just witnessed here.

    Treat each other with a little dignity. 😉

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  9. Zeta Reticulan

    Militant Christians & Militant Atheists battling it out again ... both so indignant & both so terribly afraid they're wrong.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • layo24

      I completely agree, and in the end its not about being right or wrong.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Sounds like a troll, smells like a troll, and the words are bullshlt...yep, it's a troll! (hi Peewee! Pretending to be different ppl again, eh? How sad)

      March 29, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  10. Dave

    Every buttock shall fartificate, and every tongue shall confess the glory of His name, least you you be deemed a witch and burned at the stake along with your heretic children. And let us thus say, amen and kiss the hand of the priest....

    March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  11. AlreadyInUse

    This is a double epic fail for the church – here's why:

    (1) This book had been laying in plain sight for years, with a plaque claiming it was original King James Bible - this goes to show the church-goers are really lousy researchers and have little burning desire to find facts, the desire that drives most scientific discovery.

    (2) Funny that someone would do "research" to see if the claims on the plaque were true - it is infinitely more important to do research to verify the claim IN the book. 400 years ago when this Bible was published, you could be killed for wanting to "research" just about anything.

    What say you?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Religious sects

      AlreadyInUse...agreed. I find it very interesting that even the church council didn't believe the claim that it was authentic ... Did they just think it was a lie but left it there anyway? That portion of the article speaks volumes!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  12. Paul Strong

    James you are Correct my friend:

    haha….God will have the last laugh….you are just creation. You CANNOT destroy the creator nor His Word…..people have been trying since the beginning of time…..It is Written ” My words will not return void” I am Alpha, Omega

    Throughout history the Bible’s enemies have been aggressively hostile. Unbelievers have been attacking the Bible for 1800 years, and yet it stands today solid as a rock. It’s circulation increases; it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at outlawing and destroying the Bible; they die and the Book lives on!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Great news everyone! Paul Strong is the Alpha and Omega, whatever that means. Praise him above God and Jesus!

      March 29, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  13. John Smith

    1611 King James | Ps 83:18 | That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • PeterVN

      He said Jehovah! He said Jehova! Stone him!
      -a Monty Python sketch you should review
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIaORknS1Dk&w=640&h=360]

      March 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  14. RevSteve

    Wow, i think its awesome they found an original. Crazy how it attracted so much negativity and belittling remarks. I guess the book we're all talking about told us it was coming. Even the haters prove its truth.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Yeah, love that mustard tree your story book tells about.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  15. PLEASE FIX IT CNN

    AGAIN! - posts/replies flung all over the place!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Quit hitting the "report abuse" button. That's all it takes to keep things running smooth.
      And I would bet that 99.999% of the people hitting that button are thin-skinned religious people who don't really believe in freedom of speech. The Bible does not condone freedom of speech at all.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Lycidas

      Actually, the Bible does condone it. There are many examples where ppl said exactly what they felt to God. Job and Moses would be good examples.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  16. blessedfool

    Can't we all just get along??

    March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Obviously not.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  17. RindaLynn

    I am so humanly sorry that my genealogy and heritage is of such insult to so many that have posted here in response to this piece of history being found. We do not have to all believe the same. But, should we not all respect that others have their beliefs? Do any of you realize how much it hurts to read the distain against the book knowing that ones' ancestors fought to live their lives by that book and its teaching all their lives? Why should one be treated wrong for choosing to follow it? Look how the world was as it was heavily followed past compared to today where it is hardly followed at all. Which world seems more at peace and more with respect? The past or today? Again, all can believe as they wish. I choose to respect that book as my ancestors taught me to do.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • PeterVN

      People deserve respect, not ideas. Books, and the ideas they present, should be subject to all forms of criticism, and appreciation as merited. Worship is stupid.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jeanine

      If you worship a book then you're going to get some flack, and rightly so.
      As for respect, how can I respect liars and the lies they have written?
      You might as well ask me to respect a murderer because he tucks you in at night.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Lycidas

      There is no Bible worship here you know.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  18. mmf_usmc

    Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess the glory of His name...

    March 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Julie Scroggin

      Yes. I love this quote. It will happen.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Paul Strong

      Very True! Jesus is the answer!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • AlreadyInUse

      Let me guess... Chuck Norris?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • PeterVN

      I don't bow, and I think your god as described in your buy-bull would be an azzhole if it actually existed. Fortunately, it doesn't.

      So there.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Bah. I could just as easily say that NO tongue or knee will do anything out of the ordinary. What a pathetic way of expressing your faith. Do you envision billions of slobbery tongues and billions of na-ked knees? Sounds like a personal problem.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  19. Daniel

    Wow-a lot of interesting comments.

    I find a lot of people's comments show they are on a bandwagon. Either they jump into the Christian-hate camp or on the defensive. I think it's funny that people pretend to know either way. You can't prove god doesn't exist, and you can't prove that he does. It's a metaphysical argument with no human way of scientifically answering.

    Some people examine the information or are born into a situation and decide that they don't believe in god, others do believe in god. If you want to have an argument over it, that's fine, but so far the arguments I have seen are as follows:

    "You're an idiot if you believe in God"
    or
    "God will condemn the wicked."

    Those are sucky arguments.

    Peace out.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • daoudayoub

      @Daniel, that is the most rational explanation out of this long string of comments. I stand w/you on that.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • layo24

      Completely agree.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • GAW

      Your comments have been similar to mine for years. It seems that every time there's a news article on religion, God the Bible ect The Fundamentalists on both sides (Christian and Atheist Fundamentalists) come out of the woodwork to preach and tell us they they are right and everyone else is wrong. They both use the same tone and sound alike.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Jeanine

      Daniel – you are incorrect in your characterizations.
      There is no need to prove a negative and never will be. There is a simple and overwhelming lack of proof on the side of religious believers that they are unable to face directly. This is because they were indoctrinated into believing what they believe.
      And it does not take much to indoctrinate a person at all.
      I could take someone with a high IQ and have them gibbering about "God and Jesus" within a year. That doesn't make "God and Jesus" real at all. It just means my indoctrination was successful.
      I could also take that same person and de-program them within a year, and they would say "There is no such thing as God".

      In the end, someone says there is a god and others say they see no evidence of such a thing.
      The field is not evenly balanced as you seem to imply. The proof is lacking and no one knows where it could have gone.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Lycidas

      “Atheists don’t claim that God doesn’t exist. They are simply without a belief in God. Therefore the burden of proof for God is on the Theist, not the Atheist.”

      This is a technicality that Atheists use to try to put the burden on the other side. They claim that since “A-theism” means “without a belief in God”, they are not claiming anything and therefore do not have to prove anything. Thus, they claim, the burden of proof is on the Theist, who claims that God exists.

      However, this makes little difference either way because their core philosophy toward God is still the same. Deep down, they believe that there is no God, and they know it. The reason why they emphasize this is to try to put themselves in an unattackable position. It’s a semantic ploy. To try to be consistent with it, they will say “There is no evidence for God” rather than “God doesn't exist”, but sometimes they slip up.

      They can’t really prove that God doesn’t exist because you can’t prove a negative. Regardless, the Atheist obviously believes deep down that there isn't a God or deity anyway, which is prevalent in their attempts to debunk and refute every single argument for the existence of God. Therefore this trivial debate about the implications of the word “Atheism” seems pointless in substance.

      March 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Virgil

    My God have mercy with your soul. You see how many of you are stirred up about God. He is the supernatural almighty God the creator. Not one thing in all creation was created unless God created it. You have no authority on your own. You can only have salvation thought Jesus Christ.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Paul Strong

      Amen

      March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Umm, how is it again that your perfect, all-powerful deity's works are susceptible to rot and decay? And mulitple, differing translations and interpretations?

      And why again does your god need a physical book to get its message out?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.